Soft breeze and fog frost on sagebrush.
A roadill coyote pup roadside for a week.
I drive past a shuttered church
and old time country music comes to mind.
A gnarled man sharpens a pocket knife
on a train track east of Soap Lake.
Disguised as newlyweds, kids sulk
on a motel bed, stare out a window.
A local basketball coach,
arteries about the burst,
bellows at his players,
Gentlemen, let's place
the exrement on the scales.
a dryland wheat farmer,
bought, over the internet,
a Serbian riot baton
for his children...
so they'll know history.
So many rose petals
Stop asking if I ever see
the walls I crash into.
Monday, February 28, 2011
My dead right eye breathes fire, burns me awake some nights.
I laugh a lot to cure fear of quick, kindless rattlesnakes.
And I like to pretend it isn't all downhill... seek a coyote savior
to lead me to a motel-deluxe room where light bulbs work.
What is it, precisely, we can offer each other, four-legged
to two-legged... and back again: No more fucking leg traps.
Mostly I don't answer the phone, because the Colt revolver
is way too not-in-hand: I can cope with crises... not turmoil.
Pretty baby throws the bedside clock-radio and the phone off
a college baseball poster, says, I can tell you what's gonna happen!
Sometimes we have a good grind, then I paw through Doc Holliday's
left over nightmares... and a little aged bourbon/cow culture wisdom.
Tonight's moon is waxy-pink and I get the wrong boots on each foot.
Sometimes I unreach the mark and feel sorry for my own missed cues.
One time I held her shoes so that she could walk up and down
a corn cob driveway just to say it was something she did naked.
Tonight my Personal Savior Coyote, a three-legged, hell-on-rodents
kind of guy, is sniffing out sick calves, not answering my prayers.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Marilyn Monroe (1960)
- for Kirk Robertson
I don't have to wear a halo all the time.
She drooled like any chloral addict.
Waking up in her Mapes Hotel room's shower,
Marilyn asked for a steak sandwich,
skip the mayo. A make-up girl offered
to find her a Paiute coyote fetish.
The gravediggers are waiting, Marilyn snapped.
Huston or Miller? She brushed her bone-blonde
dry-as-the-Great-Basin hair, concealed it
with a smoke-blue, flat brim Stetson,
announced that her ass was sore
from the pick-up truck in The Misfits.
She winked at Gable, I used to remember
all my lines when I was an angel.
This poem is reprinted from a Red Shuttleworth chapbook, Brief Lives. This poem is also included in Red Shuttleworth's Ghosts & Birthdays (published by Kris Wetherholt's Humanitas Media Publishing and available on Amazon).
Sam Peckinpah, a Ciara Shuttleworth sketch
Sam Peckinpah (1980)
- for Paul Zarzyski
Sick of clouds, sick of clawed and ripped ears
and noses, sick of clouds the shape of dented
garbage cans digesting coils of Sonoran landscape
and men, ruined by love, on bucking horses:
I want a moonlight angel in my bed.
In the hotel bar downstairs, a hungry man
is trying to sell a painting of sagebrush.
And a woman is crying, and her husband,
face bruised yellowish-green like a corpse,
frowns over a glass of Red Stag bourbon.
Sick of furrowed fields, sick of boulders
migrating south in a dream about an Apache
drilling a well for a suburban couple: My chest
has lost its muscles, my heart its punch.
This poem is included in a Red Shuttleworth chapbook, Brief Lives.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Waylon Jennings, a Ciara Shuttleworth sketch
Waylon Jennings (1974)
The guitar skitters, jumps. It's a pounding
bad-ass surly song: Take your sorry chances.
'cause gloom is what we all deserve,
for this is Pay Later Day, but if you can
battle past it, finally truth your way around
the cactus, she'll be there in a black Cadillac,
Love. It's a Wednesday, probably, sweat and dread.
He takes a pull off a bottle of whiskey,
can't seem to sleep on the ebony Silver Eagle
somewhere between Chickasha and Mineral Wells.
It's a gambler's soup and losers end at sixty
in furnished rooms feeding D-Con to rats.
He laughs, jots down some lines on a girl
with a nest of vultures in her topaz eyes.
This poem and other bio-sketch poems are presented in Red Shuttleworth's Ghosts & Birthdays (Humanitas Media Publishing, 2012), a poetry book available from Amazon.
This poem and other bio-sketch poems are presented in Red Shuttleworth's Ghosts & Birthdays (Humanitas Media Publishing, 2012), a poetry book available from Amazon.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Three Dirt Roads... Nevada
Face-ripping autumn wind
& a gooey Safeway cake
at an upbeat motel-by-the-week.
Chained dog yowl,
nickel goddamned candy
& Bible-chat radio.
This ain't love,
she screams, I just
loaned myself to you.
* * *
Bed spring clang
& a yellow pleated skirt
atop a blue, fake leather vest.
Her shampooed hair,
a gone-shallow creek,
& aquamarine telephone poles.
Microwave soup cups
& she's like Death Valley,
face raspberry-red with rage.
* * *
I'd give anything
if you'd stop lying to me.
Her request is unreasonable.
Marshmallow-white kitchen sink
& her voice real nice from surgery
or two packs of cigs a day.
Furnished room north of Vegas
& her Hollywood saline sack breasts:
Boy, I'm seeing new people.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Doc Holliday's Last Christmas:
Leadville, Colorado, 1886:
a Ciara Shuttleworth oil painting
THE GREAT NATIONAL WOMEN'S PRIZE FIGHT SERIES
A BARE KNUCKLES TOUR
PURELY AN EXHIBITION
AN ADDED EDUCATIONAL LECTURE
THE CELEBRATED, ERUDITE, AND PARAMOUNT
SCHOLAR OF CLASSIC PUGILISM
FROM THE GREEKS TO THE PRESENT
DR. JOHN H. HOLLIDAY
It is the sixteenth round. Ballerina Sabina
has Viking Clara in a headlock. Sabina is tall,
lank, leathery, a Nordic blonde from north
of Minneapolis, a she-wolf with a long reach.
Clara, also from Minnesota, some farm town,
enjoys buxom opulence. She is in rude health,
shorter than Sabina, pretty, if bulge-lipped.
Clara is languorous, but with splendid hand speed,
sure-footed. Doc has humped each of his
Belles of the Ring, has roistered
the larger portion of a night with both at once.
The Omaha saloon they are in is hot and humid,
and the girls are sweat-drenched, woozy.
The crowd, full of tonsil paint,
shouts for more action than this slow waltz.
Why? Why are we in this game? asks
Turkey Creek Johnson, Doc's partner.
Simple. Doc, while on a run from a blow-up
with Big Nose Kate, won the girls' contracts
from Maxie Flengle in a Denver poker game.
Jesus bleeding Christ, why? asks Creek.
Doc pours more whiskey into Creek's glass,
says, Because, dear friend, there is
so much emptiness to explore... or inhabit,
one year at a time until moist lungs kill me.
Doc has fought the girls in Dodge City,
Pueblo, Wichita, just outside Des Moines,
plus Emporia, and it has gone fine,
except in Topeka where the harpies marched
against them. Even paying the girls
twenty percent each, after expenses,
has allowed for a tidy profit.
There are four more stops before Minneapolis
where Doc reckons he'll dissolve the game.
But a gloom has settled over him, a thought,
that at a certain age many men turn
viciously on what they had hoped to love
and be loved for loving. Doc cannot
reconcile his melancholy with how
this amusement has rallied his health.
It's a bawdy crowd. The girls are
in bloomer dresses, ivory organza layered
over organdy, costumes designed to break
apart at the climax of the exhibition.
The girls are rehearsed to cease punching
and to wrestle at Doc's signal, to hold poses
when there is that special moment of silence
when the mutton-heads scan for nobility.
Bare of costumes then, the girls feign
shock for a few beats. Then one simulates
a haymaker knockdown punch.
It is scripted. Two scraggy-haired beauties
in full naked glory, a scene from Sparta.
Then a corker of a right hand lead.
It is the sixteenth round and the girls
are winded, tugging, and pushing.
Doc tips his hat, the nudity signal.
But the girls ignore him. Suddenly
Clara unleashes an uppercut that staggers
Sabina. Jesus Christ, Creek says.
Clara follows up with a pair of straight lefts
and the front row drunks are blood-splashed.
Sabina chops down on Clara. The girls are
not pulling punches. Each whirls off pairs
of combinations: left-right, left-right.
It is full tilt. Creek shakes his head,
says, Maybe we should open a prizefighting
academy, in New York... or even Paris.
It is a serious row, zinging jabs,
blood gushing from mouths, each girl
displaying true mettle. They separate,
stare at each other. The crowd yells,
Kill the whore and Strip the Ballerina.
What are they thinking? asks Doc.
Creek reveals the girls are no longer
set on farming together in Duluth country,
that the course of true love never runs smooth.
Creek says to hell with them, he and Doc should
hold try-outs in New Orleans or Chicago
for new girls, order costumes from the days
of Rome, get French postcards to sell,
maybe flog gallons of Sagwa at each bout.
Doc says, No, let's pay them off,
get back to Dodge and winning at poker.
Just then the sinewy Sabina clobbers
Clara with a resonating head blow.
Clara is stretched out in a wagon
behind the saloon, not far from dead.
A policeman listens to Doc explain the temporary
and minor effects from such concussions.
Sabina, weeping and snotty and broke-handed,
rips the gauzy bloomer dress away from
Clara's still body, screams at the onlookers,
This is what you bought seats for, ain't it?
Well, have a look. Have a gander,
you stockyard-smelling bastards.
The policeman orders Doc to get Clara
to a hospital or just out of Omaha,
he doesn't care, tells Doc he is a pimp
as he buttons fifty dollars into his uniform
jacket pocket. Creek bottles the policeman
on the head twice and he goes down.
And the moon is huge and orange on the Iowa
side of the Missouri River as Creek steers
the wagon north, Sabina at his side mewling,
Clara cold in the back, fists curiously
clenched, with a right hand lead toward
paling stars. Doc is trailing, half drunk,
half asleep on a carbon-colored horse.
Doc calls to Creek, You said Clara could
take a punch. And Doc snarls at Sabina,
Stop blubbering. We'll bury her Christian.
-- for J.V. Brummels
This poem first appeared in Flyway (Volume 8.3, Spring 2004), edited by Stephen Pett and Joe Capista.
The life of gunslick Doc Holliday comes to us in fragments of fact and myth. This poem arrived out of shards of fact. It interested me that Holliday's world, like our heart's country, was tempered and twisted by chronic disease, moronic violence, and ambitions locked to devoted, if half-cocked, readings of Sappho, Catullus, and Lucretius. Doc Holliday was wonderfully complex: dentist-shootist, goldsmith-aphorist, Christian-existential gadfly, gentleman-rascal. He must have had some coyote blood in his arteries. Oh, what tricks to be played and suffered.
Hank Williams, a Ciara Shuttleworth sketch
Hank Williams (1952 / 1953)
for Tom Russell
They never tell you each road is a way
to meet shrill women who make you lonelier.
They never say the next train is short of seats.
When you bang your head on the inside of a back seat
car door, there's never a trim angel there,
just the devil disguised as radio music.
Morphined, chloraled, boozed: the snow
out on the highway is the color of watered down whiskey.
The last time you saw his star-wobbling soul in a mirror
it whispered, Every child is born to scare its momma.
At least there's no factory grindstone, no Detroit
hotel room with a bare, blinding light bulb.
hotel room with a bare, blinding light bulb.
As two bottles clink on the floor below your jaw,
Hank, there ain't a way to turn around.
This poem first appeared in Flyway (Volume 9.1, 2004), edited at Iowa State University by Stephen Pett, Allison Mackin, and Joe Capista. This poem was also included in a Red Shuttleworth chapbook, Brief Lives. Subsequently this poem was included in Ghosts & Birthdays, a collection of Red Shuttleworth poems (Humanitas Media Publishing, 2012), available on Amazon.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Clara Bow (1930)
The hunger never eases.
Nipples worked erect,
she cannot sleep.
Gilbert Roland and Gary Cooper
are no more than a gleam
of an ocean under stars.
The peachy satin sheet is cold.
The red ceramic tissue box
beside her bed is empty.
Here at the beach house,
legs widened, she listens
to the leaky kitchen faucet,
waits for Rex Bell to phone her back,
but he's in Tahoe with Will Rogers
making another Western.
She tries to sing Bad Companions,
but her voice is heavy like river stones
in the pocket of a fringed leather coat.
The mirror trembles as she
holds her lonesome breasts.
Rogers Hornsby (1924)
Winters, Texas, is a county away
from Bronte and Tennyson,
and Rajah says,
Ain't a decent saloon between 'em.
November ice coats the road
in from Abilene.
He is back home in Winters
to conduct a baseball school.
Not a one of these kids
will get past Ty Cobb,
the way I did with a bat.
He glares out the window
of Mrs. Barton's Boarding House,
juggles three biscuits,
his hands strawberry-jelly-sticky.
I don't mix, just ballpark
and hotel. I hate musicals.
Reading kills a batter's eyes.
Dinner with anybody,
other than a pretty gal,
is worthless piss.
The nearby baseball field
has an inch of ice over it.
Even if Winters is inside
hell freezin' over,
the Chamber of Commerce
better pay me a bonus
or I'll torch the house
I was born in
to clear the air.
Durham, North Carolina
Carolina League Old Timers Game, 1980
for Miles Wolff
Dead arms cock and toss
ghostly looping baseballs.
With golf course tans,
paunches, and bored
in the stands.
they trade anecdotes
wives never hear.
In the dugout,
young minor leaguers
owned by the Atlanta Braves
giggle, nor recognizing
how it is they will gather
their own aged summers
into a blue weather
three-inning old timers game
where the trails cross
past pink slips, real jobs.
In our dugout,
Joe Cowley farts,
says Enos Slaughter
is obscenely fat.
Out on the mound,
Tommy Byrne kicks
at the rubber
with new spikes.
Gallagher tells me
not to watch too long.
I have to warm up
our starting pitcher,
a bonus baby
West Point drop-out
whose hard one explodes
like a grenade as it
crosses the plate.
But I want to memorize
this grassy field in May sunlight,
the baggy flannel uniforms,
the bald, blunt head of Enos Slaughter
as he grins and signs a ball.
I want to memorize
the blonde, nearly bare-breasted
woman interviewing Bob Veale for TV,
her butt tense and snug
in grey designer jeans.
I want to memorize
the quizzical expression
on Tommy Byrne's face
as he adjusts his grip
on a batting practice ball,
radio announcer eating
his fourth free hot dog,
the wide-open happiness
of middle-aged baseball players
who never expected this
residue of poise and grace.
It's good to sit here
out of the old timers' way
with my hand in my glove.
When the years have been piled on
and I'm nearer some mortuary,
I'll stand over there, just behind
home plate with the gear on
one last blood-pulsing time.
And I'll look over here
to the dugout to see myself
young again, lean and hard,
my hands tight with impatience.
I'll look over one spring day,
then turn around, squat and catch
my finest innings... even if
I resemble a beached sea lion.
This poem first appeared in The Minneapolis Review of Baseball (now named Elysian Fields Baseball Quarterly ) in 1985, edited by Steve Lehman.
After the release of the movie Bull Durham, a lot of guys who played for the Durham Bulls (the Atlanta Braves Class-A minor league team in the early 1980's) were taken for bullshitters when they claimed they had been there... on the grass at Durham Athletic Stadium. The Bulls returned to the Carolina League thanks to local franchise owner Miles Wolff. It was Miles who paid my salary when I was the bullpen coach in 1980. Every January I call Miles and thank him for the gift of being a Durham Bull in 1980. A baseball visionary, Miles Wolff was instrumental in returning minor league baseball to profitable popularity.
Baseball Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter has passed on. Tommy Byrne is gone, too. Joe Cowley is rumored to be a nuts & bolts salesman somewhere in the South, but, after Durham, Joe went on to pitch in the Major Leagues for the Braves, Yankees, White Sox, and Phillies. Bob Veale, my roommate on the road in 1980, our pitching coach, who led the National League in strikeouts in 1964 while pitching for the Pirates, is retired somewhere in Alabama.
The Durham Bulls are now a Triple-A minor league team. Miles Wolff no longer owns the franchise. I will never be invited back to an old timers game.
Thunder and she vanishes
into a haze of evergreens,
perfumed gold dress billowing.
A deer runs soundlessly
and blue night comes.
In the village, children break
all the school windows
and the principal prays
to the goddess of photography.
In the nearby hotel
the maid strips
in her favorite lavender room,
stretches pale fingers
to the ceiling...
as if to touch
the coupling a floor up.
In woods as dark as a kettle,
a deer stands beside
a blonde prom queen
runner-up, his antlers
gentle on her forehead.
This poem, in an earlier version, first appeared in Wind Magazine (Volume 17, Number 61, 1987), edited by Quentin R. Howard.
Living at the edge of the wilderness of British Columia, up in the Rocky Mountain Trench, on the fringe of an "instant town," I was drawn to the poetry of Georg Trakl. I was engaged by translations made by Robert Bly and James Wright... and by Herbert Lindenberger's book in the Twayne's World Authors Series, Georg Trakl (Twayne Publishers, 1971). That was in the winter of 1974-75. The poetry of Trakl vastly enlarged what I thought could be done with poetry... and extended the education received from Kay Boyle and William Dickey at San Francisco State University. In the autumn of 1979, Lindenberger, a long time Stanford University professor in comparative literature, spent time with my poems and me. I shall forever be indebted to Herbert Lindenberger for his criticism of my early poems and for his encouragement. My poem The Deer was deeply influenced by Trakl and Lindenberger.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Benny "Kid" Paret
(March 14, 1937 - April 3, 1962)
The Boxer on Canvas
The grinding of a beaver's teeth
back and forth over poplar.
You don't waken to blueberry pie,
huckleberries generously laced into it,
fresh vanilla ice cream on top.
No. A man is yelling from down
a narrow coal mine shift,
Seven... Eight... Nine... ,
and your knees won't listen,
your heart rushes blindly,
you don't care about wood smoke
from slash fires you loved as a boy.
You start to cry to your deaf
and dumb body about damned gravity,
but finally you smile at the people
who want you to be a vacant lot
strewn with busted glass.
This poem had Benny "Kid" Paret in mind, though it was predicated by the death of another fighter, whose name I cannot recall, in 1974. The poem first appeared in Poetry Now (Vol. III, Nos. 4-6 -issues 15-16-17-18), edited by E.V. Griffith.
The poem was also included in my 1978 chapbook, Poems to the Memory of Benny Kid Paret (Sparrow Press: Felix and Selma Stefanile, editors).
Rockabilly, a Ciara Shuttleworth sketch.
Dog Heart Mostly Sleeps in the Pickup
Battered, sweat-greasy 5-X Stetson,
too early for cold beer,
someone else's cattle
as if on a slot machine binge.
So what if Elvis left the building.
* * *
A smart Ely girl offers up
more than a theory on global warming
or one on Sonny Liston's murder.
The scent of her perfume
is like vanilla car freshner:
the way you like it,
If it was my period, honey,
we could blood-stain
these motel sheets.
* * *
In Tonopah, Wyatt Earp's toothbrush,
chipped blue wood, worn down bristles,
withers in a dusty glass case.
Imagine what a lock
of Earp's hair might be worth.
Or one of Waylon's coke-rotted teeth.
For $27.95, including tax,
you rent Wyatt and Sadie Earp's
Mizpah Hotel brass bed room,
pay an extra $45
for the dusty parlor.
* * *
Over corn flakes
at that Fallon motel
next to the steak house,
the blonde grips your hand,
swears she'd be a winterkill
stallion... just for you.
You don't like her
gender confusion on horses.
Later, the motel check-out clerk
believes, We're runnin' out of rabbits
to shoot. Guess it's down to derelicts.
* * *
You buy cherry donuts.
her rhinestone spangled,
gravy-stained tube dress
on the warped floor.
Her first husband shot her daddy's
rottweiler, hauled her
to a single-wide near Elko...
scratchy army surplus blankets.
Last night she said you're lightning
striking her soul's pipe corral.
* * *
you're a wolf hide blanket,
a slice of last night's pecan pie
on a cigarette-burned motel nightstand.
You're a JFK lucky half dollar
in a Copenhagen snuff can.
The consequences are around the bend.
Driving sunlight near Austin,
you hit a coyote
and it flies over the cab of the pickup,
lands square in the truck bed.
* * *
She's a Cheyenne, Wyoming, show:
vanilla-cream tight Wranglers,
cherry high heels,
and a mostly unsnapped
rodeo queen black shirt.
And you've got a broke molar
from a T-bone on your mind.
Outside the saloon, it's hailing.
Your heart's running
like one of Geronimo's horses.
* * *
Somewhere east of Scottsbluff,
leaking oil on two-lane blacktop,
you reckon life's about spicing up pain.
Over a century's gone
and Stephen Crane's ghost
still explores what's beneath
abandoned High Plains homes:
old lace, eagle feathers, coup sticks.
* * *
A stuffed lynx grimaces
in a dark Leadville saloon.
A local minister nurses a beer,
polishes a brass crown of thorns
for a pageant. Oh, how terrifying
the days ahead will be.
Let's circle-up stones,
light the supper fire.
* * *
Pass the Wild Turkey.
Everyone's got unspent excuses.
Now it's Wagontire, Oregon,
bitter stock tank water
for a bath out back
of the ramshackle,
roof shingles to the wind motel.
In the distance:
sun-parched ranch family graves.
These are the good times...
when you don't have
enough rope to hang yourself.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
A Day Short
A day short of being thirty-six,
I locate another fatty tumor on the Wolfhound.
Tomorrow, a time of presents I've seen already:
a mended jacket, framed snapshots of my girls,
a bottle of Power's Irish Whiskey. A day
of applecake, Sunday newspapers, a quiet
walk with the old dog. Killing chickens today
with a friend, we talked of cobblers and Brueghel.
It is the middle of a simple life lost from
baseball. I carry a pen and notebook,
consider the milkweed by the lake, wonder if
Doc Holliday truly shot a tumor off his dog's leg.
A day short of being thirty-six, I run two miles
to feel the inflamed chest cartilage, to feel
how my knees hurt. My countrymen build saloons,
churches, war planes. My countrymen, let's bring
back the cobbler, the grizzly, girls who wear
plaid shirts in redwood forests. Whiskey-breathed,
I sing with Kate and my girls, Good Ole Boys Like Me,
sing Hank Jr. and Waylon, sing the moldering
color of October prairie. I'm just a day short.
This poem first appeared in The Ontario Review (Number 15, Fall-Winter 1981-82), edited by Raymond J. Smith and Joyce Carol Oates.
Wanette, Oklahoma (1917)
Dark summer rain and a few brick buildings.
At the edge of town, a field of black-eyed susans
stares up at craggy-faced clouds.
At the Methodist church, a wreath of black roses
is mistakenly delivered before a wedding.
Idlers, old men with bristly white beards,
have arrived to adjudicate the bride's face.
A woman in a smoke-colored shawl mumbles,
My mind's tryin' to gut itself of fear!
An owl-shaped cloud hurls its shadow over the church.
At the nearest saloon, a drunk farmer weeps,
curls on the sawdust floor, shakes and moans,
Damned dry and empty blind-boy sky!
Thick-necked men toss the farmer into the street.
As the photographer walks up to the church,
the groom is recruited to battle a grass fire.
The minister scribbles in a leather bound diary,
This wheezing rabble is my beloved life.
Marmalade, Pineapple Juice, Pork Sausage,
Tin of Shortbread, and a Cheap Chocolate Bar
A woman in peach-colored sweat pants
and a too-short blue Goodwill sweater
has a huge plastic Mountain Dew bottle
under a thick arm. It's starting to rain
on the Moses Lake Walmart parking lot.
The woman shuffle-lopes, halt 'n' go.
Quarter-size raindrops splat on her
Kool-Aid orange, blue-streaked hair.
She halts, bends at her blubbery waist,
spews, yellow-with-tomato chunks,
vomit on wet blacktop. A skinhead
cart boy says, You can't buy happiness.
Thirty yards downhill, closer to the store,
the woman stops to light a cigarette.
She takes a deep drag, turns, flips us off.
The cart boy, a lieutenant of fall-back positions,
says, It's a mystery of who gets sloppy
Juicy Fruit kisses, chilled champagne.
Milton Parker Looney
Bryan, Texas, 1980
Milton Parker Looney
Light 'em if you have 'em: the fighting Nora's
Navy Cross fire controlman is dying, lung cancer,
hot as Christmas lights at his niece's house.
In delirium he is back on the Northampton,
just before midnight near Guadalcanal
at a surprise party for a convoy of Jap destroyers.
He's having a smoke with radioman Jason Robards,
balancing future fame and California redheads,
talking Texas horses and Galveston weekends.
Bam-Bam. A pair of torpedoes hits the port side.
Flaming diesel fuel sprays across the Northampton.
Boxed ammo explodes, rips into Milt's side as he shoots
a rope gun at the mast to rescue a man. Milt is nudged
awake by his pastor, teeth white as cigarette paper.
This poem first appeared in Open Range: Poetry of the Reimagined West (Ghost Road Press, 2007), an anthology edited by Laurie Wagner Buyer and W.C. Jameson.
-- Jon Chandler, Roundup Magazine"Roadside Attractions is an open notebook of the road, a daily, yearly and lifelong diary; a memory-poem that in a mere five pages imparts the essence of what it means to be capital-W Western. A literary Burma Shave tour of back roads and fast-maturing frontier towns punctuated by Shuttleworth's unique rhythms and subjects (some of whom belong in David Lynch films), Roadside Attractions is compelling for its counterpoints... the West as a place of big dreams and lost expectations, its people subject to the Old West's excitement and tedium and the New West's opportunity and trepidation."
Arizona Rangers, Bisbee, Arizona
(Hayden Arizona Collection
Arizona State University Libraries)
Bisbee, Arizona, 1912
Copper greed, unbalanced heat, and borders:
the shrill 300-pounder calls her breasts
Night Shift Globes, charges three dollars.
Her man's a throat-slitter. Statehood's here.
The horizon takes a last savage breath
and darkness drapes the Copper Queen Hotel.
Shake your thin shirt off, pioneer,
slam the window shut, a woman says.
A man with hot imbecile-breath moans.
Geronimo is dead at Fort Sill, Oklahoma,
the Apache mountains are gouged.
Our demons keep impersonating us.
What a hoot, a hotel geezer says
to some god's flaming moon.
Red Shuttleworth, Winside, Nebraska, December 1987
Evening and a Wren Flying Home to a Dead Tree
Dressed in a faded black skirt
and a low-cut azure blouse, the smell
of wood smoke rising off her breasts,
she stands next to the kitchen sink,
and guts a cottontail. Her husband
is looking for the priest at the rodeo
and her father is laid out upstairs
on his bed, as dead as the rat her son
put in the county sheriff's mailbox.
Her father is too dead to ever again
examine pictures in Playboy or think
a dip in a barrel of rusty rain water
is as good as a bath. His colors of
thirst were salt, tequila, and lime.
This poem first appeared in West Branch 18 in 1986, edited by Karl Patten and Robert Taylor
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Dizziness and Shudder
Like a footsore cowgirl dragging a saddle,
my daughter comes from school. You've got
snuff-breath, she says, kissing my cheek.
With acrylics, she spreads out a deathscape:
a pewter cottonwood, snow falling in whorls,
a brain-colored Wolfhound chewing grass.
I think this is the true way Pup died
of bloat, she tells me, and brushes in
a sun the color of bloody bedclothes.
This poem first appeared in Mississippi Valley Review, edited by John Mann, in the Fall/Winter 1985-1986 issue.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
A platoon of old guys sits the cafe counter
in Stockman's as I stagger in for a chicken fried steak
and fried eggs ten a.m. breakfast.
A couple geezers look over, so I nod,
and their eyes glint, You're gonna be
sittin' with us in ten years... if you don't
heart attack out... dumb bastard.
The waitress, peroxide-blonde okay at forty,
says, It'll be just a little while, honey.
The geezer closest to me spoons
buttery raspberry oatmeal.
Most of us have Resistols or Stetsons
screwed down on our skulls,
though most are short-brimmed,
sweat-stained grandpa hats.
I think about my daughters...
when they had ragdolls,
Barbies, tea parties
with large hounds.
And I think back to when
my son rode dry ewes,
spurred straw and alfalfa bales
with roughstock hooks and growl.
I think about all the blind miles
on poetry road: cold eyes,
lipsticked bubble lips,
the ruined figures of lady
freshman composition teachers,
motels with not-so-mysterious
coed door knocks after readings,
all the brain-bruised wake-ups
and the rush to the car
to speed down-road.
And I think of poets onward
and away from poetry,
now making stained glass,
or selling hedge funds,
paying bad-house mortgages,
their kids breaking knick-knacks
with hurled skateboards.
Now the old guys
are weaving out of Stockman's,
so I nod again and they nod,
their eyes flashing,
You're gonna get yours...
sure as ugly weather,
sure as BLM stealin' grazing land,
sure as wives pushing vitamin pills,
hip replacements, pointless drives
to Mexico for prostate cancer cures.
Red Shuttleworth, bullpen coach,
Texas City Stars
(a Class-A minor league team
in the Lone Star League)
The Bullpen Catcher Considers His Condition
With the big leagues out of my grasp, I lean against
the dugout wall and dip half a can of Copenhagen snuff.
The acrid smell of Texas City sinks onto the field
at dusk, oily, like the inside of a plastic
soda pop bottle. There's that to look
forward to, and mosquitoes biting like mad.
But I love this no-frills minor league,
the scraggy-faced teenaged girls who come
to watch us, their thin hands scraping
for popcorn in carton bottoms, solid bellies
rising toward ivory halters, boots tapping
every night to the same Jerry Jeff Walker song.
Death is so far away tonight, like Thanksgiving
or my childhood, and we're here slinging balls
as if having money piled in banks is something alien,
as if this is all the love we can give or take.
This poem first appeared in The Texas Review, edited by Paul Ruffin, in that journal;s spring/summer 1985 issue.
An after batting practice, pre-game snapshot taken in Texas City in 1977 of Jeff McKay (journeyman minor league pitcher, later a scout for the Kansas City Royals) Red Shuttleworth (coach), and John Harness (minor league pitcher). I was clearly the happiest guy there.
Brass Rivets and Cracked Teeth: Coldwater, Kansas
A sleepy security guard... a hard April rain
on a hospital parking lot.
a lap dancer mumbles,
brushing coppery hair,
just some black river.
A deadfall woman snores
below a shingles-blown-away
leaky roof. In the other room,
a boy with a hash pipe
pours iodine over blood.
Half a Hershey bar,
chicken burger meatloaf,
& it's raining on Hereford horns:
Honk If You Love Jesus.
No more than six miles
out of Coldwater,
a naked, grizzled farmer
wanders dizzy into thistles.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Barbara Moffett at Hollywood's Florentine Gardens
Barbara Moffett (1940)
A wolverine fur coat arrives in the mail.
California's Loveliest Showgirl tries it on
with crimson calf-high boots, nothing else.
On the radio, Wendell Wilkie says, No more
idle hands. We need two million bathtubs,
millions of refrigerators, and no war in Europe.
At Hollywood's Florentine Gardens, Barbara,
ranch born, champion roper at twelve,
peels her jeans, peroxide blonde everywhere
pleasant, and five nights a week she slips
into a glossy, leg-slits, monkey skin dress...
and she strips... orchedaceous. But next spring,
road money earned, she hopes to win the Saugus Rodeo,
chug a beer, go shirttail to the frisky wind.
This poem will be included in the next Red Shuttleworth poetry chapbook, We Drove All Night, which will be published by Finishing Line Press in August, 2011.